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November 24, 2010

Huskies lose another tough one in Maui

LAHAINA, Hawaii - It wasn't the tournament win Michigan State has been looking for going on a dozen years now. That went away with a disappointing loss in the semifinals.

Beating a good team in a tight game at least took some of the sting off.

Kalin Lucas scored 29 points and keyed a second-half rally, helping the second-ranked Spartans salvage a 76-71 win over No. 13 Washington in the third place game of the Maui Invitational on Wednesday.

"It was good to come out and get a win like that, especially after the loss we took last night," said Michigan State forward Draymond Green, who had 12 points and six rebounds.

Michigan State (4-1) trailed by 10 after a turnover-filled first half, but charged back behind Lucas. The senior guard scored seven points during an opening 18-5 run that put the Spartans up 52-49 and hit two game-sealing free throws in the closing seconds after injuring his knee a few minutes earlier.

Lucas lingered on the floor after Washington's Justin Holiday fell on his left knee late in the game, but returned to the game quickly and finished with a flourish, shooting 9-of-13 from the field with four 3-pointers.

"I dove for a loose ball and they kind of hit me on my knee," Lucas said. "My knee's fine. I really don't know what I did to it. It kind of hurt a little bit, the doctors looked at it, but I'm fine."

Washington (3-2) had a decent day offensively, shooting superbly in the first half after a slow start, keeping up with the Spartans in a counterpunching second. The Huskies just couldn't get the stops, particularly down the stretch to suffer a second straight tough defeat.

[b]Matthew Bryan-Amaning[/db] led Washington with 15 points and Isaiah Thomas added 13 and six assists.

"We're obviously very, very disappointed," Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said. "We had a lot of high hopes coming into the tournament and we're leaving 1-2."

Lucas keyed the big early run in the second half and kept firing. Washington kept answering and the ensuing back-and-forth was filled with 3-pointers, hard drives and dunks in transition.

Michigan State's Durrell Summers, 1-for-9 at the time, hit back-to-back 3-pointers to put the Spartans up 72-68 with just over a minute left. Thomas responded with a tough spin-off-the-glass against three defenders a few seconds later, and the Huskies got the ball back when Green slipped to the floor and out of bounds.

Green then fouled Bryan-Amaning, who made just 1 of 2 free throws with 13 seconds left. The Huskies were forced to foul and Korie Lucious made both free throws to make it a three-point game, then Lucas sealed it with two free throws after Washington's C.J. Wilcox shot an airball 3-pointer at the other end.

"Really, really difficult to have a few hours to prepare for Michigan State," Romar said. "They run their offense with much precision."

Michigan State struggled in the first round against tiny Chaminade before pulling it out and lost a brutally-physical game to unranked Connecticut in the semifinals.

The loss to the Huskies will certainly knock the Spartans down the rankings and continued their non-postseason tournament struggles.

Michigan State has done well in the spring, winning a national championship in 2000 and reaching the Final Four six times in 12 years, including the last two.

When it comes to during-the-season tournaments outside of East Lansing, the Spartans can't seem to get things right.

Michigan State is currently on a 13-year championship-less drought, with losses in Maui, Alaska, Kansas City and Puerto Rico, among others. This year's seniors lost in the final at the 2007 CBE Classic, the first round of the 2008 Old Spice Classic and last year's final of the Legends Classic.

The loss to coming-on-strong UConn completed the set, leaving the Spartans hoping to regroup against another talented team.

They did it, but just barely, salvaging what could have been a really tough weekend.

"We did show some character because it wasn't easy," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. "We had a tough loss yesterday in a game we led down the stretch and thought we could have won. It's disappointing to not win the tournament, but make no mistake about it, there's about three teams here are I think are as good as we'll face all year."

It could help the Spartans at the end of the year, when they don't seem to have any tournament troubles.


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